5 Of The Best: Boro’s Irish Players

By Pete H

A chairde! Now, you can’t argue – there’s much to thank the Irish for. Guinness, The Pogues, Roy Keane, Brendan Gleeson, and (for the most part) our editor. Not Bono, however. We are happy to draw a line there. English football can count many iconic contributors from across the water – and Stevenage are no exception. Which is why, to celebrate St Patrick’s Day (and all things Gaeilge in general really), here are five of our best Irish players over the years…

How can we overlook that Jamie Reid earned a call-up to the Northern Ireland squad either.

First, a slight caveat.

The players below are unmistakably Irish – with verifiable links to the island of Ireland. This leaves us in a bit of a pickle because we know – but we don’t – that a good few players from the 1970s, 1980s, and early 1990s will have Irish heritage. We’re not going to guess or assume, however. So, we apologise now if we’ve left out some players who had a much deeper impact on Boro’s history from earlier times. The simple reason: we couldn’t be absolutely certain.

Boro’s Irresistible Irish Players…

1. Darren Murphy
Darren Murphy scores against Portsmouth

If we’re talking favourite all-time players, Murph is right up there for us; a bone fide, unsung hero. Many of his contemporaries from our 2009-10 title win speak highly of him too – which is probably a more reliable marker. Anyway, the Cork native got stuck in and did much of the unpretty work in the centre of midfield that strengthened the foundations on which success was built under Graham Westley Mk II.

2. Ben Kennedy
Hailing from Lisburn in the Lagan Valley, Ben Kennedy was a bit of a teen sensation when he broke through into the first team
Photo: Simon Montgomery

Hailing from Lisburn in the Lagan Valley, Ben Kennedy was a bit of a teen sensation when he broke through into the first team. One of a number of young players to find their way over to the Lamex from Northern Ireland, Kenners had the deepest impact; 31 goals from 167 outings (115 starts and 52 subs). He continued to produce the goods despite us going through a good few gaffers. But things started to unfortunately unravel and he was released in summer 2020.

3. Daryl McMahon
After time at West Ham and Leyton Orient to name but two clubs from 2002 onwards, Daryl McMahon arrived at Broadhall Way from the Os in January 2007
Photo: Matt Ranson

A Dubliner by birth, Daryl McMahon moved across the Irish Sea at a relatively early age in an attempt to further his football career. After time at West Ham and Leyton Orient to name but two clubs from 2002 onwards, Macca arrived at Broadhall Way from the Os in January 2007. At first, the midfielder found his feet under Mark Stimson; starting 17 times in the second half of the 2006-7 campaign – then going on to play 41 times (31 + 10) the following campaign.

McMahon fell out of favour under Peter Taylor and – despite signing a new deal in May 2008 – was allowed to leave by Graham Westley six months later amid behind-the-scenes unrest.

4. Dean Brennan

A summer 2003 arrival, Dean Brennan is yet another Dublin-born midfielder who has graced the Broadhall Way turf. His final appearance tally of 13 starts and six sub outings hardly sets any records and it’s fair to say he didn’t quite become the tour de force we’d hoped. After all, the midfielder didn’t end up at a higher level after leaving us. Still, he’s starting to now forge a career in the dugout and (at time of writing) may lead Barnet back to the Football League!

5. Tony Shields
Tony Shields joined on loan from Peterborough United in early 2002 – and was here only a short time...
Photo: Keith Mayhew via stevenagefootballarchive.com

We’re starting to scrape the barrel now on account of a) not having enough info to go with a player from our pre-Conference days and b) other candidates being unworthy. Yeah – we do count Ray Houghton in the latter. Why Tony Shields then? Well, the Strabane-midfielder only played three times for us on loan from Peterborough United in early 2002. But we recall him scoring a humdinger against Forest Green Rovers – so why not? It’s more than Houghton did.

One for luck… Jamie Reid
Jamie Reid secured a first call-up to the Northern Ireland squad in March 2024.
Photo: Jim Steele/Stevenage FC

BGR – sponsored by BoroGuide – truly earned his stripes in March 2024 when the call came through from the (Northern) Irish FA. Reidy qualifies for the Green and White Army by virtue of his grandmother and his first international call-up was rich reward for his fine season in front of goal. Well, fine seasons to be honest. Maybe it was the luck of the Irish that brought us success in gaining promotion from League Two in 2023?

… and the rest

Dale Gorman, Mark McKee, Daryl Horgan, Fred Murray, and Jay O’Shea all get cúpla focal from us in dispatches, as does Sean St Ledger; a defender who once came to us on loan and never played. Still, it didn’t stop him earning senior caps for the Republic of Ireland or enjoying an impressive enough career in the Championship. Ray Houghton? Ah, sure – g’wan then…

To all those players pre-1994ish with Irish heritage – tá brón orainn for not including you. If we had the info to hand, we would definitely expanded out this article. Still can, to be fair…

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